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Papiamento/Dutch code-switching in bilingual parent–child reading

  • Pieter Muysken (a1), Hetty Kook (a1) and Paul Vedder (a2)


Code-switching between Papiamento and Dutch was studied in bilingual parent–child reading sessions in Antillian migrant families (who were to some extent bilingual in Papiamento and Dutch) in the Netherlands. Mothers were asked to read three picture books to their child: one in Dutch, one in Papiamento, and one without text. The code-switching in the data is studied from three perspectives: its relation to bilingual competence, its structural properties, and the implications for language change through lexical borrowing. Our data confirmed the results of earlier studies, which found that intimate code-switching within the clause is characteristic of fluent bilinguals. In our study, this held in particular for knowledge of Papiamento. Structurally, the type of code-switching encountered was predominantly insertional (with Papiamento as the dominant language), thus conforming to the constraints proposed for this type of switching. The single Dutch words that were frequently inserted into Papiamento utterances by the mothers could easily be interpreted by the child as Papiarnento and are likely to become borrowings in the next generation. We conclude with some remarks about the functions of code-switching in our data.


Corresponding author

Pieter Muysken, Department of Linguistics, Spuistraat 210, 1012 VT Amsterdam, Netherlands. email:


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